I’m desperately trying to think of another situation like this, but the only one I can come up with is Steve Bruce’s whirlwind romances with Wigan, Crystal Palace and Birmingham just over a decade ago.
Appleton’s appointment at Ewood Park after less than 90 days after joining Blackpool is an interesting one to say the least. I’m not sure if Venky’s and their ‘global advisor’ Shebby Singh realise that they’re actually running a real club or if they think they’re starring in some kind of reality show based on one of the many football management simulations out there. One thing I’m fairly sure of is that Appleton is being paid a lot more at Blackburn than he was at Blackpool. But for what exactly? Appleton’s won nothing as a manager: 15 wins in 63 games doesn’t really reek of success and there’s only so many times you can dump a club after less than a year before people won’t trust you.
I wasn’t planning on paying too much attention to tonight’s game (Blackburn are playing at Wolves – Sky Sports 1, 7:45pm) as it looks like one of those matches that the Sky Sports planners thought looked good at the time, but is a fairly routine clash between two out of form clubs in the bottom half of the Championship that have got new managers. Instead I’ll be back tomorrow with a more comprehensive preview.
Hands up again. I thought Cardiff would find their Christmas fixture list difficult but maximum points from their three games as well as a win at Leicester meant they became the first team since Wolves in 2009 to top the table at the start of the year with more than 50 points and have established the biggest lead at the start of January since 2006, when Reading were ten points ahead of Sheffield United. Both Wolves and Reading finished champions at the end of those seasons.
Leicester and Middlesbrough kept their respective promotion challenges going with two wins in three games, but Crystal Palace only managed one win over the holiday period and have fallen nine points behind Cardiff: I tend not to pay much attention to the transfer rumour mill, but if Manchester United are genuinely interested in Wilfred Zaha, any move could be detrimental to the Eagles automatic promotion hopes.
At the bottom, Peterborough managed to drag themselves out of the bottom three since the end of October with wins over Wolves and Barnsley but with the bottom four clubs separated by only four points there’s still a lot to play for. Bristol City had their Boxing Day game with Watford postponed due to the torrential rain that’s been plagued the West Country and the Robins now have a game in hand that could be vital in the long run.
The only teams to draw a complete blank over the holidays were Wolves – who scored once, conceded eight times, and have now lost four of their last five games – and bottom of the table Barnsley. After a week which saw managerial changes at both Blackburn and Nottingham Forest because their respective owners seem to be suffering from delusions of grandeur rather than for footballing reasons, Keith Hill’s dismissal following the Tykes home defeat by Blackburn last Saturday was much more prosaic. Barnsley weren’t very good last season – although to be fair to Hill the Tykes were never in the bottom three – and haven’t been any better in the first half of 2012/13: one win in the last fourteen league games and finishing the year in last place was enough to convince the powers that be at Oakwell that a change was necessary.
I covered the 3rd Round of the FA Cup (with Budweiser – which is what you’re supposed to say) in this post at the start of last month, so there’s probably no need to go over the same ground today. The only televised game involving a Championship team this weekend is when Newcastle visit Brighton at lunchtime (ITV, 12:30pm) but given the lack of sustained success in the competition by second tier teams in the last few seasons, a couple of upsets by sides further down the league and one team in the quarter finals will probably be the highlight this year.
In what appears to be becoming a two horse race in the competition to become the most dysfunctional team in the Championship, Blackburn Rovers have sacked Henning Berg less than 24 hours after Nottingham Forest showed Sean O’Driscoll the door.
To be fair to Blackburn, they were front runners anyway – with Venky’s having eventually caved in to fan pressure to remove Steve Kean despite a good start to the season and replaced him with a manager with no experience outside the bottom half of the Norwegian Eliteserien. I’m beginning to wonder if the owners actually thought they were getting Ole-Gunnar Solksjaer rather than Henning Berg, but the point is moot now.
I’d imagine the front runners to replace both of the latest casualties would include Mark Hughes, Owen Coyle and Alan Curbishley but what do I know? I just blog about the Championship every week and made my opinions about both Berg and O’Driscoll (and here) clear either before or shortly after they’d been appointed. For what it’s worth, I think the best appointment made since the start of the season is Mick McCarthy at Ipswich.
Update: Alex McLeish was appointed Forest manager this evening. He’s not managed in the Championship for four seasons and is – statistically speaking – Aston Villa’s worst ever manager. Here we go again: if the Al Hasawi family want to spend one season in the Premier League and have a good run in the Capital One Cup, then McLeish could be the right choice.